On Monday, PLA Daily announced that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Rocket Force (PLARF) had commissioned a new brigade of its Dong Feng 26 (DF-26) intermediate-range ballistic missile.
Video footage carried in Chinese state media showed at least 22 integrated six-axle DF-26 transporter-erector-launchers along with their crews.
The DF-26 is thought to have a range capability of around 4,000 kilometers and is capable of delivering both nuclear and conventional payloads.
In its 2017 report on China’s military, the U.S. Department of Defense noted that the “DF-26 is an intermediate-range ballistic missile which is capable of conducting conventional and nuclear precision strikes against ground targets.”
U.S. analysts have nicknamed the system China’s “Guam-killer” missile, as its range makes it well-suited to strike the U.S. outpost on the second island chain.
According to PLA Daily, the DF-26’s two warhead configurations would fulfill two missions. The first would be to “conduct rapid nuclear counterattacks.”
Per China’s declared no first-use nuclear posture, the PLARF would only use its nuclear weapons in retaliation for an adversary’s nuclear first-use.
The second role would be to “carry out conventional medium and long range precision strikes against important land targets and large and medium-sized ships at sea.”
There are currently two known variants of the DF-26, the DF-26A and the DF-26B.
The DF-26 was first seen in 2015 in Beijing during a parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of World War II’s end in Asia. That year, 16 launchers participated in the parade.
More recently, last year, U.S. government sources told The Diplomat that, before China’s celebration of the 90th anniversary of the formation of the People’s Liberation Army, DF-26 missiles participated in a drill simulating a massive attack against a mocked-up U.S. military installation.
That exercise also incorporated other conventional ballistic and cruise missiles in concert, suggesting that the DF-26’s operational use, in both nuclear and conventional scenarios, will be supplemented where realistic by other systems deployed with the PLARF.
The DF-26 is thought to be derived from the DF-21, China’s first land-based solid-fuel missile, based in turn off the JL-1 submarine-launched ballistic missile.